The idea of getting to watch Francisco Lindor sock dingers-a-plenty in Great American Ball Park is a real, legitimate one. There’s a picture up there of him doing just that, albeit not in the same parlance in which we’ve been collectively imagining these last few weeks.
What I mean is that it’s not an idea based completely in fantasyland. The Cincinnati Reds have enough good players to make Cleveland saying ‘yes’ to a trade realistic, though it would take damn near all of them. Cleveland, despite being a billion-dollar franchise, has chosen to continually operate as a small-payroll organization, and Lindor is a big-payroll player with dwindling team control. They will eventually move him, the Reds can afford him, and these are simply two factual statements.
There’s only one problem:
If Lindor is available, the Reds are just one of twenty-nine teams that would be flooding Cleveland trying to land him, and just because they can, in theory, afford him doesn’t mean he’ll still be around when their offer gets reviewed. The Reds can almost certainly meet Cleveland’s asking price, but they aren’t in a position to be able to overpay the way that some teams - the Dodgers, in particular - can. So, it’s pretty damn likely that the Reds aren’t going to land Francisco Lindor this winter, especially since Cleveland still has the ace in the hole of not technically having to trade him just yet - he’s under team control, albeit in a pricey manner, through the 2021 season, after all.
Once you file the emotional aspect of that away, it’s important to get down to the roots of why Lindor would be such a sweet player to land in the first place. Affable two-way superstar, yes, and it’d be criminal for any team out there to both know he’s available and not put forth a good-faith offer to attain him. Deeper than that, though, is why the idea of landing such a player by the Reds, in particular, is so damn intriguing - namely, that the Reds don’t really have a good shortstop now, nor do they have a slam-dunk prospect there in the upper-minors, either.
You can make many, many arguments that Lindor is the single best shortstop in all of baseball, so yes, he’d obviously be the go-to upgrade for the Reds at that position. Pair that with the concept that it’s rare in today’s game for any franchise to both a) have a superstar shortstop and b) also be in a position to want to move such a prized player, and this seems like perhaps the one real chance the Reds will have to go all-in and land such a player.
That very well could be the case. There’s been some very minor scuttlebutt that the Dodgers might be willing to move Corey Seager, though that seems both unlikely in any scenario and only marginally conceivable if the Dodgers managed to land Lindor themselves. There’s been similar small-talk about Houston’s Carlos Correa, though there’s been absolutely zero movement in the month since The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal first reported that the Astros were at least considering that idea. Despite the very public acknowledgment that they’re trying to dump salary to avoid the luxury tax, there’s been almost zero rumor suggesting Boston would be willing to move Xander Bogaerts, and we all know former Red (and former free agent target of the Reds) Didi Gregorius has inked a deal to ply his shortstopping for Philadelphia.
Beyond that group, there’s the interesting case developing in Colorado, where the Rockies are reportedly seriously considering moving superstar 3B Nolan Arenado after their miserable 2019 season, due in part because of both his mammoth contract and the potential of him opting-out of said contract after the 2021 season. If they’re going to go into that level of rebuilding, moving shortstop Trevor Story would be a subsequent likely domino to fall, and despite his severe home/road splits would provide a significant upgrade to the Reds current situation. That series of moves actually capitulating seems rather unlikely, however, especially given the success the Rockies had with their current core as recently as 2018.
The one club that’s increasingly interesting to me in this potential shortstop carousel is Tampa, however, as the Rays perpetually find ways to churn their bottom-payroll roster and still field very competitive teams, often in surprising fashion. Just this winter, they sent team leader Tommy Pham and his affordable (to all non-Rays clubs) contract to San Diego on the heels of a 91 win season, landing Hunter Renfroe and prospect Xavier Edwards in the process. Edwards sits as the #73 prospect in the game according to MLB Pipeline, but perhaps more important to this discussion he sits as just one of four SS prospects ranked in the Top 10 of Tampa’s stacked farm system - the same system that has Wander Franco, a SS ranked as the #1 overall prospect in all MLB.
It’s entirely possible that Franco actually reaches the bigs this year, and even if he doesn’t, it’s very likely that Vidal Brujan - the #39 overall prospect on MLB Pipeline’s list - does. That’s a remarkable level of talent on the cusp for Tampa at a prime position, the kind of depth that just might make them consider cashing-in on current shortstop Willy Adames. Adames, still just 24, is fresh off a 4.2 bWAR/2.8 fWAR 2019 season, his first full season in the bigs after entering 2018 a consensus Top 20 overall prospect in the game. He’s been largely defense-first through his first 237 games as a pro (.263/.328/.414 in 907 PA), but the 20 homers he popped in 2019 suggests there’s still some raw power in his offense that hasn’t yet been fully unleashed.
As with Lindor - or Correa, Seager, or any of the other star shortstops previously listed - Adames would very much cost a haul. He comes with five full seasons of team control, is currently making league-minimum, and won’t go through arbitration for the first time until the 2022 season, all of which are precise reasons why any team, Tampa in particular, would want him around right now.
So, the reality is that the Reds are simply going to roll with Freddy Galvis to begin the 2020 season, especially after news broke today that Jose Iglesias - their primary starter at short during the 2019 season - agreed to sign with the Baltimore Orioles, ending speculation about any potential reunion in Cincinnati for 2020. It’s Galvis vs. the field here, really, with each of ‘the field’ being one of a handful of star-caliber shortstops that would require the Reds handing over the bulk of their farm to acquire, especially since it’s no guarantee that any of them actually get moved. Each of Cleveland, Houston, Tampa, LA, and Colorado are actually trying to win and not tank in 2020, after all.
It’s an odd position to be in, frankly. The current shortstop market is defined by a select few stars out there right now, all of whom would require a blockbuster deal to land. The mid-market at the position really doesn’t exist, meaning there are very few trade concepts out there to marginally improve over Galvis at a reasonable cost. Instead, it’s pretty much blockbuster or bust, meaning the likelihood we see anyone other than Galvis at short come April 2020 is almost nil.
Of course, that means the Reds still have a ton of work to do to get better elsewhere.